I recently had some time to spend on the range, and a friends Winchester .22 that needed to be sighted in. I'd been told that a local gun shop had a fair supply of 7.62x39, so I took along my vintage Chinese Type 56 just for fun.
The shop did indeed have a few cases of Brown Bear 7.62x39 hollow point ammunition, but at ruinous prices. $9 a box! I bought only two boxes, in the interest of a range report for my readers. Okay.... and because I wanted to play with the SKS a little.
The Brown Bear ammo, so named after the brown lacquer that coats it's steel case, is a product of the Barnaul munitions plant in Russia. Created by Aleksander 1st in 1869, the plant has supplied Russia, and now the world, with ammunition ever since. Moved under wartime pressure several times, the plant settled in Barnaul and a month later was supplying Soviet forces through the rest of the war. First begun in St. Petersburg by Czar Aleksander as a royal ammunition plant, it's now adopted the name of it's home city and become the Barnaul ammunition company.
This new crop of Brown Bear ammunition comes in three choices. Full metal jacket, soft point meant for hunting, and hollow point meant for target shooting. It's interesting to note that Barnaul specifies the hollow point round as suitable for light game as well.
The case is steel, and coated with brown lacquer. The lacquer is thought by some to foul chambers with a sticky residue. In my shooting with the Russian import ammunition I have not noticed this happening. Then again, I have fired only a few hundred rounds of the ammunition in a few rifles, and none in pistols.
The bullet appears to be gilded mild steel, with a lead core and a largish hollow point. The hollow point does not serve duty as a means to expansion, as the jacket is tough and not scored to tear back in petals. On impact, the Brown Bear hollow point is far more likely to fold over and destabilize the bullet dramatically. In match bullets like the Sierra boat tail hollow point, the precision hollow point helps balance the bullet and stabilize it in flight. Somehow, I doubt the Brown Bear hollow point is precise enough to have the same effect, but I did not notice this HP ammunition to be any less accurate than the FMJ either.
In shooting, the Chinese type 56 SKS functioned perfectly with the Brown Bear offering. Feeding was slick, even flawless, and it shot to point of aim with the military sights on the rifle.
Accuracy was acceptable, although not stellar. The 123 grain hollow point bullets all fell into an average of 2.5" at fifty yards, with no fliers that couldn't be explained away as the shooters fault.
Ejection was slightly erratic, with some cases flying forward, some to the rear, and some straight overhead. This may have been more a function of the rifle, although it has ejected more consistently with other brands of ammunition. I can tell you one thing... it doesn't help accuracy testing to have a hot steel casing bounce off your skull a few times.
All in all.... the Brown Bear ammunition is exactly what it appears to be. Decent quality ammunition for everyday shooting and target practice. Match ammunition it's not, but it was not intended as such. Function is excellent, it's reliable, and accuracy is acceptable. Considering it's pretty much the only 7.62x39mm game in town just now... it's not too bad.
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